"[Roxburgh] gives a startling, energised performance."
This is not a biopic. Rather it is a story inspired by aspects of eccentric Australian born pianist and composer Percy Grainger's life. Although he lived on into the mid-century, the action is set in the early 1900's and concentrates almost exclusively on the lusty young Grainger's early career. This was the time of Modernist Arts re-writing and Freud. Both aspects are directly embodied in Grainger's strange tale, if only the film could grasp the connection more clearly.Within those limitations, the period is well evoked visually. The cinematography and lightning are expertly done and the movie is easy on the eye. As are the familiar and talented cast. Shakespearian thespian Roxburgh (Children of the Revolution) throws himself into all aspects of the lead role and gives a startling, energised performance.
The delightful Hershey shines as Percy's inappropriate mother. Most modern audiences will feel that this woman, who all but beds her own son (a rumour that killed her in real life) whilst nurturing his 'genius', is central to his problem. But Hershey manages to make her sympathetic. Karvan (Paperback Hero) extends her range as Percy's German free thinking musician friend who lines him up with a girlfriend (Woof) who comes to understand and eventually share his passion for the English Vice.
Woof (The Woodlanders, The Full Monty) plays her part with a highly watchable combination of innocence and knowingness. The few whipping scenes are surprisingly explicit and earn the film an otherwise ludicrously strict R rating.
The film will probably be marketed on this whiff of titillation but really it is a costume drama that leaves you wanting to know more.It is a watchable film but it doesn't show us how Percy's ebullient passions inform his art and thereby wastes its main point of entry into our sympathies. ---Julian Wood